One year after coup, Brazil is a neoliberal nightmare

Friday, May 19, 2017

A year on from the parliamentary coup that ousted former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Brazil has become a neoliberal disaster and approval ratings for the incumbent right-wing government have slumped to record low levels.

The democratically-elected president was ousted in May last year without any proof of wrongdoing. Michel Temer, who then served as vice president, was installed as interim president. On August 31, Rousseff was formally removed from office.

Since then, the Temer government has faced constant criticism for its neoliberal policies and attacks on social organisations.

Fatima Bezerra, a senator from Rousseff’s Workers Party (PT), told Sputnik that Brazil was “still suffering from this parliamentary coup. We have a government without legitimacy that nobody voted for and that also brings an agenda of withdrawal of rights".

As soon as he took office, Temer announced his cabinet, which was entirely composed of older white men. He also removed all women and Black people from top government positions.

Temer and several of his main allies, including eight ministers, are under investigation for fraud and corruption connected to the country's largest political scandal involving Petrobras and construction company Odebrecht.

He won approval of a constitutional reform intended to freeze public investments for 20 years, including in key sectors such as health and education.

Temer's government also reduced the minimum number of doctors for each emergency care unit from four to two. It suspended the national literacy program created by former President Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva. It also abolished a national program against hunger that benefitted impoverished areas.

Other areas that saw budget cuts were women's advancement, agrarian reform, mitigation of the effects of climate change, children's and adolescents' rights and Indigenous rights.

Meanwhile, the government announced a hike in the country's military budget by 36%, which hit nearly $US3.1 billion.

Temer also closed the Bureau of Racial Equality, the Secretariat of Human Rights, the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Agrarian Development and closed the Ministry of Social Security, which was incorporated into the Ministry of Finance. The Ministry of Culture was closed but later reinstated after nationwide protests.

The government also ordered the closure of Brazilian embassies in Africa and the Caribbean region and decided to privatise the country's offshore pre-salt oil assets and allow multinationals to own exploration rights in the country.

Temer's government has also presided over one of the country's worst prison crises, with more than 130 people killed inside jails this year alone. These deaths are largely attributed to prison riots protesting overcrowding.

Currently, the Senate is discussing a new unpopular reform that sets a minimum age of retirement at 65 years, reduces death pension benefits, raises social security contributions by civil servants and could end labour rights in the countryside, allowing practices considered by the penal code as equal to slavery.

For the first time in 15 years, there was no real rise in the minimum wage for workers under Temer.

"Brazil is going downhill. We have to end this government and bring democracy back," said Bezerra.

[Abridged from TeleSUR English.]

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